Now that the proposal, and for that matter my seminar paper, is over, how did it help be develop as a historian? When I started this project on Virginia Tech in the First World War it was simply an interest I was passionate about. I had a working knowledge of the source base from a project I completed in the past, but I knew that I did not have anything near the knowledge of the sources or the secondary literature required for such a project. The amount of primary sources I had (and still have) to search through is mind boggling. Pretty soon I realized that I needed to come up with a system for tracking what I found to try to be a better organizer, which was the first step in becoming a better historian. Researching while reading secondary literature also made me think about connections, or contradictions, between what other authors have said and what my primary sources lead me to believe. While this is something I did throughout undergrad, the scope of the thesis project forced me to engage with multiple historiograhphies and made me think about where I fit in it. Finally, I believe starting the thesis has made me a more practice historian, helping me hone my research and writing skills that I will need going forward. Obviously this will continue to be an area where I improve, but I have seen great strides in my abilities in the span of just one semester. However, I still struggle to master proposal writing.
Throughout the summer I will remain in Blacksburg and plan to continue my primary source research in Virginia Tech special collections. Over this past spring I have explored the entirety of President Eggleston’s collected records and plan to research the first few years of President Burruss’ records. Additionally, I will use the summer to conduct research in local, state, and national records which will help me provide comparative analysis of broad, higher level, trends and changes which occurred during the era of the First World War. During the summer I also plan to begin writing the first chapter of my thesis which will likely focus on the pre-war period, though I may start by writing about the wartime period which will likely be the most important chapter to my thesis. Continuing my research in Virginia Tech Special Collections, expanding my primary source base outside of the region, and starting to write a chapter of my thesis will position me well to submit a final research proposal at the end of August.